Italy proposal to fine migrant rescue boats condemned by human rights experts

An Italian government proposal to fine those who rescue migrants or refugees at sea should be rejected by lawmakers, UN independent human rights experts have said.

In a written statement condemning the draft decree, the six rights experts urge the authorities “to stop endangering the lives of migrants, including asylum seekers and victims of trafficking in persons”, in the name of national security.

The right to life and the principle of not sending vulnerable people back to places where they risk ill-treatment or worse “should always prevail over national legislation”, they said.

So far in 2019, 1,200 migrants and refugees have reached Italian shores, most after setting sail from the North African coastline.

In 2016, nearly 400,000 people arrived in Italy, according to UN migration agency IOM.

Under the Italian proposal, vessels would be fined for every person rescued at sea and taken to Italian territory.

Volunteer and other boats that rescued migrants could also have their licences revoked or suspended, the rights experts said, cautioning that the draft directive stigmatizes migrants as “possible terrorists, traffickers and smugglers”.

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